Saturday, February 09, 2008

Hooray for the… Republicans???

Well, it’s official. The United States Congress has decided that I, and all other Americans my age and younger, don’t matter. On Thursday, the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a bi-partisan $168 billion economic “stimulus” package that the President will soon sign into law. The New York Times describes the bill thusly:
The plan will provide tax rebates of up to $600 for individuals and up to $1,200 for couples filing jointly, with an additional payment for families of $300 a child, and a minimum payment of $300 for individuals who pay less than that in income taxes.

Payments will be reduced for individuals with adjusted gross incomes above $75,000 and couples with incomes above $150,000, with the wealthiest taxpayers receiving nothing. The Treasury Department said checks would be distributed beginning in early May, after the crush of the tax filing season.

Let me get this straight. Our current economic crunch was caused by banks giving loans to folks who couldn’t handle the cash and by people spending beyond their means, and Congress thinks the solution is to have them spend… even more???

There is no way to know if our nation is indeed entering a recession. A recession is defined as two back-to-back quarters of negative growth, and we don’t even know if we’ve had one such quarter yet. Yes, it is true that growth has at least slowed down, but last I checked, getting upset when you make a small profit instead of a large one isn’t defined as a recession, it’s defined as GREED. The truth is that our economy may not even need to be stimulated, and even if it does, it’s going to take more than a $152 billion gift to families to turn around a $13 trillion economy driven by corporations. All the current plan will do is help create the largest deficit we’ve ever seen, adding even more to the already unpayable $9 trillion national debt. What’s more, we won’t see a dime of it until May, even though the worry is that the recession may be NOW. Yes, Congress gets to pat itself on the back for pretending to help the little guy and managing to look like it actually accomplished something for once, but don’t let the rhetoric fool you. For anyone not elected to office, the long-term burden this creates will far outweigh the short-term pleasure of a tax refund: no gain, but lots of pain. And who has to put up with that debt? ME! My generation is the one left holding the bill. Has the President forgotten just how young his two daughters are???

Now, I’m all for helping out veterans, seniors, and poor folks, but we’ve got to do it in a way that makes fiscal sense, and dressing it up as an unwarranted economic stimulus package that adds to the deficit does not catch that particular fish. Freshman Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said it well:

“Instead of dealing with the fundamental issues that have led to our country's current economic ills, the U.S. Congress is on a fast track to pass a so-called economic stimulus package to be paid for — entirely — by those same schoolchildren, and their children… I'm always happy when I see Americans receive refunds from the federal government, but I find something extremely inappropriate about a deficit-ridden federal government borrowing money from our grandchildren and sprinkling it across the country for a short-term fix that will do little, if anything, to jump-start our troubled economy.”

This un-stimulating addition to the national debt passed the House 380-34 and the Senate 81-16 with overwhelming support from both parties. So why, then, am I applauding the Republicans in the title of this post? Because while their behavior on this matter is deplorable, it’s still not quite as bad as that of my fellow Democrats. Thanks to 40 Senate Republicans who put fiscal sense ahead of political points on Wednesday, the bill is $40 billion smaller than what Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wanted. Unfortunately, every Democrat, and most of the Republicans I admire (Snowe, Collins, Smith, and Specter, among others), voted for that 200 billion-headed monster. When the final package passed on Friday, all 16 of the Senate’s opposition votes came from Republicans, including Gregg of New Hampshire and Craig and Crapo of Idaho.

Dartmouth Economics Professor and Director of the Rockefeller Center Director Andrew Samwick has been blogging pretty consistently about the foolishness of this non-stimulus package, and even had an Op-Ed in the Washington Post about it last month. I’ve been meaning to quote him and link to that Op-Ed for some time, but alas, midterms got in my way. Nevertheless, I tip my hat to Prof. Samwick.

But not to Congress. To them I say, pbbbbbbttttthhhhh.

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